Thursday, August 21, 2008

Italy, Day 4, 6/18/2008

  • breakfast: pastry, cappuccino, fruit
  • lunch: bruschette with tapenade, roasted peppers, roasted pepper dip, sausage, and ham; olives; Campari and soda
  • dinner: cheese plate; pasta alla chitarra; ravioli with eggplant in tomato sauce; broccoli; tiramis├╣

Our day's trip was from L'Aquila to Pescasseroli, and to get there we had to switch buses in Avezzano, a town that I'll always remember for its ugliness. (Ugliness stands out in Italy.) We found a bar for lunch while we waited for our bus. Behind the counter they had some nice-looking plates of toast, spreads, and focaccia. When I ordered one, the bartender said something about "un aperitivo" and when we shook our heads, she fetched an English speaker who thought about the translation for a second, looked confused, and then asked us if we wanted an aperitif. Apparently, the plate came with one, because he insisted that we have one. We brought the plate and my Campari and soda (it came in a pre-mixed bottle, like a soda) back to our table. Before we had sat down, the bartender brought us a bowl of olives. As we ate, more and more things were delivered to our table. First there were some extra pieces of focaccia, then some extra toasts, and finally an orange dip that tasted like roasted red peppers. We tried to turn down each of these when they brought them since we worried we'd be charged for each of them. When we were done, Giovanna went to the register to pay. The total price? Four euros, including the drink.

After an afternoon hiking to the Castel Mancino--or actually, an afternoon wondering around Pescasseroli looking for the trail that went there--we were hungry. We found a restaurant whose menu was scribbled on a piece of graph paper out front. The cheese plate we started with had two hard cheeses and some jam, and this satisfied our immediate hunger. Giovanna's pasta was really terrific: a bright, fruity tomato sauce on top of ravioli stuffed with eggplant. My pasta was good, too. It's traditional to Abruzzo, as I read in many tourist pamphlets. Here's an article from the New York Times about it. Each strand of pasta was long and rectangular with funny little bumps. It was wonderfully chewy, something I've never been able to achieve in my own homemade pasta. The sauce was made from oil, pancetta, and an enormous amount of pepper. It didn't look like much but it was incredibly flavorful. Last we had some broccoli, which was served as its own course because I hadn't quite figured out all the details of Italian dining. (More about that later.) A broccoli course is silly, but it was delicious, garlicky broccoli.

This restaurant was tiny and completely abandoned. Unfortunately, I have no idea what its name was or where it was, and I cannot direct you to this undiscovered gem. But if you're in Pescasseroli and see a tiny, empty restaurant with a handwritten menu, you should go there.

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